National Geographic: Disaster ‘Prepping’ Was Once an American Pastime. Today, It’s Mainstream Again.

In the spring of 1941, guests of the Allerton House in New York City descended 45 feet below ground to check out the hotel’s newly completed air raid shelter. The shelter boasted an auxiliary lighting system in case the building lost electricity. Watching the German bombing campaign over London terrified Americans, and led the government to form civil defense preparations. Photograph via Bettmann/Getty

National Geographic talks about the past, present and possible future of American preparedness in Disaster ‘prepping’ was once an American pastime. Today, it’s mainstream again.

here’s a reason “preppers,” people who plan for the worst-case scenario, like to talk about the zombie apocalypse. The idea of an army of walking dead swarming the country pervades their thoughts because, says Roman Zrazhevskiy, “If you prepare as if a zombie apocalypse is going to happen, you have all the bases covered.” That means: an escape route, medical supplies, a few weeks’ worth of food.

Zrazhevskiy has been thinking about this for decades. He was born in Russia a few months after the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl. At the dinner table, his family often talked about the disaster and what went wrong. Then, after they relocated to New York, Zrazhevskiy stood on the waterfront outside his Brooklyn high school on September 11, 2001, and watched the World Trade Center towers collapse. Even then, he had a small go-bag prepared with disaster supplies.

Now, he’s the guy who has a kit and a checklist for every occasion, including taking his toddler to the beach. Zrazhevskiy lives in Texas and runs survival outfitters Ready to Go Survival and Mira Safety. In 2019, with protests in Hong Kong, wildfires in Australia, and the threat of war with Iran, business boomed. But when the CDC announced the U.S.’s first confirmed coronavirus case last January, business reached “a whole new level,” says Zrazhevskiy. His companies spent the next couple of months scrambling to fill backorders. The flood of new customers had so many questions that he hired seven full-time staffers just to answer emails. “It’s kind of a customer service nightmare,” he says. “People are really flipping out.”

In a public imagination fueled by reality TV, preppers are lonely survivalists, members of fanatical religious groups, or even wealthy Silicon Valley moguls who buy luxury underground bunkers and keep a getaway helicopter fueled. But in reality preppers range from New Yorkers with extra boxes of canned goods squeezed in their studio apartments to wilderness experts with fully stocked bunkers.

Eight months into the coronavirus pandemic, something has shifted in our collective psyche as we remember empty aisles and medical supply shortages. Firearm sales are up, bread baking and canning are trendy, and toilet paper stockpiles are common. Are we all preppers now?

A forgotten American tradition

The coronavirus pandemic is the epitome of what preppers call a “s*** hits the fan” event. As the country braced for lockdowns and began seeing shortages of crucial supplies last March, people found themselves woefully unprepared. But there was a time in American history when many more civilians were ready for disaster.

In 1979, when Alex Bitterman was in second grade, Sister Mary Jane gathered her students in the gym of their Catholic school. In front of her sat a three-foot-tall gray barrel and she asked the students to guess what was inside. A clown, they thought. Or snakes? The nun opened it and pulled out a wool blanket, a plastic water container, and a large tin of saltines. These items would save them, she said, if the Soviet Union dropped a nuclear bomb on the town of Cheektowaga, New York.

For decades, a barrel like this was no surprise to American schoolchildren. A stockpile sat in the back of Bitterman’s school gym, and a yellow binder in the administration office held a set of hyper-local contingency plans for various disasters. So when COVID-19 reached the U.S., Bitterman, now an architecture professor at Alfred State College in upstate New York who studies how extreme events shape communities, remembered that barrel. Forty-one years later, he realized the country has lost its collective preparedness. “Why are we sitting in our houses waiting for someone to come save us?” he says. “No one’s coming.”

But there was a time when the nation felt that someone would come. The Great Depression birthed the New Deal, which gave Americans a safety net—Social Security, federal housing, and federal unemployment insurance—and instilled the belief that the government would step in when they needed a hand. Helping them prepare for a disaster or attack was part of the deal.

In 1941, after Americans watched British civilians take shelter in the London Tube during German bombardment in World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt formed the Office of Civilian Defense with the aim of helping Americans prepare for a military attack on a local level. A variety of government-mandated civil defense agencies operated from World War II through the Cold War and provided communities with guidelines and resources to keep emergency response local.

This effort manifested in the barrel and binder Bitterman remembers from childhood, as well as things like a national emergency alert system. Starting in the 1950s, designated civil defense radio channels would broadcast information in case of a Soviet attack. For decades, every radio and TV station was required to test the system weekly. The civil defense bible—the 162-page, government-issued “Blue Book”—laid out strategy and instructions for an emergency that often kept the responsibility hyperlocal. A family unit, the authors stressed, was the “basis for organized self-protection.” Soon, the need to be prepared seeped into all aspects of life, from architecture (basement bomb shelters) to education (the infamous classroom “duck and cover” drills).

Two decades later, the Cuban Missile Crisis delivered another wake-up call. A nuclear arsenal aimed at the U.S. from 90 miles off the coast, Bitterman says, eroded the idea that the country was safe from outside threat. The agency’s name would change over the years, but civil defense adapted to the evolving threats of the 20th century. It was, says Bitterman, “the one time in our shared American history when we had a unified, coordinated effort to prepare for disasters of all different kinds.”

As the Cold War thawed, the threat of natural disasters took its place: hurricanes on the east coast, tornados in the Midwest, earthquakes in California. Such problems were too large for local communities to manage on their own. Massive environmental contamination required federal clean-up, and disasters like the 1979 Three Mile Island reactor meltdown in Pennsylvania spooked the public….(continues)

Market Watch: How ‘Survivalists’ Are Preparing for Coronavirus Epidemic

Could this happen in the U.S.? A man walks around empty refrigerators in a supermarket in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

From the folks at Market Watch, How America’s extreme ‘survivalists’ are preparing for a worst-case coronavirus epidemic — ‘beans, bullets and Band-Aids’ 

James Wesley Rawles is hunkered down at an undisclosed location west of the Rockies. “I’m not at liberty to say what state I live in,” he told MarketWatch via internet phone. “I live in the inland Northwest… more than two hours from any decent shopping. We could lock our gate and say goodbye to the world for two or three years and get along just fine.”

He’s on his ranch with a large family. “I’m not at liberty to discuss it,” says Rawles, a former U.S. Army Intelligence officer. “Let’s just say it is a very large family.”

This is a key moment for “preppers” or “survivalists” like Rawles. While the coronavirus has spooked markets into massive sell-offs and sent shoppers to stores like Costco COST, -0.03%   to stock up on supplies, survivalists have been prepping for something like this for years. Even decades.

“I was a ‘prepper’ long before that term even came into being,” says Jim Cobb, author of Preppers’ Long-Term Survival Guide and Urban Emergency Survival Plan. “Since I was 16 years old,” says Rawles, when asked when he first started readying himself for a possible apocalypse. “That was in 1976.”

‘Be prepared for whatever life throws at you.’

—Jim Cobb, author of ‘Preppers’ Long-Term Survival Guide and Urban Emergency Survival Plan’

Nobody knows for sure, but there may be many more preppers in the U.S. The term covers everything from “doomsday preppers” in the northern mountain states to people who just make sure to be stocked up at home in case of disaster.

Rawles, the author of the “Patriots” doomsday novels, and the website survivalblog.com, has been living at his undisclosed ranch since 2006. He is a messianic Christian and a controversial figure. “The general public is clueless,” Rawles. “I call them the GDP — the Generally Dumb Public.”

Most people will be unprepared if there are shortages, or if they have to go into quarantine, he says. He’s watched the run on things like N95 face masks — despite health officials’ recommendation that the public not buy them — without surprise. “It is at times like this that the GDP wakes up,” he says. “My motto is panic now and beat the rush.”

“I’ve been doing it my whole life,” says “Doc Montana,” a survivalist who asked that MarketWatch not share his real name. “[A] lot of urban people aren’t prepared for a disaster,” he adds.

Cobb, meanwhile, lives in a more mainstream environment in Wisconsin, where he works as a disaster preparedness consultant and a writer. “I’m not an ‘end of the world is coming’ kind of guy,” he says. “It isn’t a case of having to batten down the hatches because the zombies are going to get us. For me, preparedness is common sense. Be prepared for whatever life throws at you.”

Some preppers say the coronavirus was on their radar in January

Rawles says he and other preppers noticed that the commodities markets were flashing alarm signals about China long before Wall Street paid attention. “We started raising alarms about this in early January,” says Rawles. “The commodities markets essentially fell apart.”

Oil slumped, he pointed out. Copper, a key leading indicator of economic activity, plunged. The Baltic Dry Index, which tracks demand for global shipping, went south. He and many fellow preppers think the virus is likely to be a so-called “Black Swan event” — the term coined by author Nassim Taleb to describe major, sudden, and unpredictable shocks to the system.

Rawles, who says he is ready for his long-expected doomsday a scenario, says he holds his money in platinum, silver, and U.S. nickels, which he believes will be valuable because of their base metal content.

So far, the World Health Organization is calling coronavirus, or Covid-19, an epidemic rather than a pandemic. Worldwide, there had been over 90,000 cases and 3,100 deaths as of Tuesday. However, more than 80,000 of those cases are in China.

The WHO is calling coronavirus an ‘epidemic’ rather than a ‘pandemic.’

The definition of an epidemic and pandemic are somewhat vague. An epidemic refers to a surge in the number of cases of a disease, while a pandemic refers to a disease that has spread widely across countries and continents.

The WHO has declared the coronavirus a “global health emergency,” the organization’s highest alert level.

As President Trump confirmed during last week’s press conference on the disease, the federal government does have contingency plans, even including quarantining cities, if it should get much worse.

Many preppers don’t believe the reassurances about the scale of the epidemic, least of all the information coming out of China.

They both agree on one thing: a worst-case scenario is the most likely outcome. Some, like Rawles, fear the worst from the coronavirus. He thinks it is “unstoppable” and “will be all over the planet in the next months.” Doc Montana believes the authorities are trying to warn people to get ready without causing a stampede.

But others are more philosophical and, perhaps, less apocalyptic. “There is so much goofy stuff that is floating around on social media,” says Cobb. “You don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong.” His take? “No. 1, don’t worry about what you don’t know. Worry about what you can control. As a practical matter, prepping for a pandemic isn’t that different from prepping for a sudden job loss or a power outage.”

‘Don’t worry about what you don’t know. Worry about what you can control.’

—Jim Cobb, author of ‘Preppers’ Long-Term Survival Guide and Urban Emergency Survival Plan.’

Most preppers are nothing if not dramatic, and they have a variety of terms to describe total disaster. Most of them are acronyms…

Click here to continue reading at Market Watch

2019 NW Preparedness Expo, Apr. 13 & 14

http://nwpreparednessexpo.us

Speakers include:

  • Patrice Lewis of Rural Revolution
  • John Jacob Schmidt of AmRRON and Radio Free Redoubt
  • Glen Tate, author of the 299 Days book series
  • Shelby Gallagher, author of the A Great State book series
  • Rep. Matt Shea from WA district 4 and the Liberty state movement
  • K from Combat Studies Group
  • Brian Domke from Strategic Landscape Design
  • Ranger Rick
  • Dennis Walters from Dana Engineering
  • Kaery Dudenhofer of Kaery Concealed

as well as other ham radio operators, herbalists, survivors, precious metal investors, beekeepers, and government emergency management planners.

 

NC Scout: Preparedness Groups and Community

From NC Scout, writing at American Partisan:

log cabin

From my angle, not suffering the myopia of many, the prepper movement seems to be rekindling. After the siesta many seemed to take after November 2016, a large number are waking up to the reality that no, your problems are not solved by simply voting and that no, they won’t be any time after. We can easily see that all of the same issues which motivated the many are still omnipresent- the shaky basis of our economy, the very real threat of domestic discord, and the increasing likelihood of terrorism or even a possible nuclear exchange. I can’t help but wonder if this is what the early 80s felt like. Coming of age in the 90s survivalists were far more concerned with the rise of globalism and the threat of domestic tyranny, listening to William Cooper on our Sony Shortwave receivers that we bought at Radio Shack. Those threats haven’t gone away, but what has changed for the good is the approach many are adopting to preparedness and survival compared to the past- embracing a small group and community model versus the inefficient and socially obtuse ‘lone wolf’ stereotype. Before anyone hisses at their screen while reading this, take a moment to reflect on some of the things that have been either written, filmed, or observed in the past few years. Look at the growth of all things survival, primitive living, or just asking for a simpler and more resilient lifestyle. What was once a fringe notion among social outsiders is now mainstream. Look at the resurgence of the ways of yore and the reembracing of simpler, more resilient and less wasteful lifestyles. The age of tradition is coming back, fueled in part by a need to reawaken those bonds with our past meanwhile recognizing the need for community. The days of the large family gatherings and community get-togethers seems to be returning, and its a welcome sight.

gummer.jpgRugged Individualism doesn’t negate the need for others. I think of myself as a fairly well rounded individual. I can build anything from a lean-to shelter to a radio shack. I can keep a person alive from trauma long enough to get them to a higher tier of care. I can communicate around the world with basic equipment, I can make accurate shots with a 7.62×51 past 1k meters, lead a combat patrol, fix my diesel truck, brew my own beer, hunt any game out there, and can make it into the best smoked sausage you’d want to eat. But those skills at a basic level only serve me. What of my family? What of yours? I have to sleep sometime. Who watches over you when the body or mind shuts down?

And that’s where the confusion comes in. The idea of the well rounded man, rugged individual, or as I like to call self starter, doesn’t mean you don’t need anyone else. Could I live like that, alone, in total isolation? Maybe for a little while, but it wouldn’t be much fun. Without others to share a good laugh, food, drink or the human experience with, what’s the point of ‘surviving’? Many of the libertarian mindset pride themselves on personal liberty, not being reliant on anyone else for anything and accountable to the self alone. While I share those views it cannot negate the reality that I cannot do all things alone nor would I want to. Specialization may be for insects, but we do all have our talents. Groups tend to coalesce around skills that add to the whole. And that brings us to how we stand up communities of preppers.

The first thing to recognize is that prepper groups are voluntary and should be based on respect and friendship…

Click here to read the entire article at AmericaPartisan.